The evolution of genetic technology has allowed companies such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA to provide a service to customers to tell them their genetic heritage. These services offer amazing opportunities to discover one's past and learn about potential health problems.
However, because of how recent this trend is, there are not established laws regarding the privacy issues related to private companies having access to millions of people's DNA. There are a lot of stakeholders that could benefit from having access to such a wide array of DNA. Last spring, police officers use a website called GEDmatch to track down a serial killer who had fled from his crimes without being caught 40 years ago. GEDmatch is a website that people can submit their DNA results from different testing providers (such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA) to find relatives who also did testing. The website allowed police officers to access their database to find cousins of the killer through the use of their DNA and the DNA collected at the crime scene. Having access to so much DNA is a powerful tool for law enforcement and crime investigation. However, how do users know whether they are allowing the government to access their DNA? Does this cross a boundry? Some states have created laws that prohibit companies from sharing their DNA database with law enforcement, but most have not discussed the issue. Another website called FamilyTreeDNA has also open its doors to investigators. I wonder if the people who pay for the genetic testing services are aware of this possibly breach of privacy.
Another possible group that is interested in this DNA are Big Pharma companies. 23andMe is public about selling DNA for medical research. It gives users an option to opt out of being included in the research. While having access to so much DNA is obviously great for the medical research community, what is the ethicality of this? I have not used this service, but I wonder if the opt in/out is clear to users and if all users know the potential risks of sharing their DNA.
I'm wondering what others think about the potential privacy and legal issues that can arise from the growing use of consumer genetic testing. As the technology continues to evolve, I think there are a lot of great possibilies that can help change people's lives for the better, but I also think there might be more risks than everyone is aware of. While I'm skeptical about using these services myself, has anyone here used one of these companies and can share what is was like or if there were any considerations before doing so?